Applebaum, Meacham to discuss rise of autocracy in ‘Open Dialogue’ event

Anne Applebaum

Pulitzer Prize–winning author and propaganda expert Anne Applebaum will visit Vanderbilt on March 5 for a discussion of the rise of autocracy in today’s geopolitical climate. 

Applebaum, staff writer for The Atlantic and author of the best-selling 2020 book Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, will be joined by Jon Meacham, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Political Science and holder of the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair. 

Registration is required.

An expert on the Cold War and Eastern Europe, Applebaum in her book discusses a new brand of authoritarianism, in which governments band together against democratic institutions such as the European Union and the United States. 

“One of the implications of this new autocratic network is that many of the old tools that we have used to push back against autocracy are no longer working,” Applebaum noted in a 2020 interview with NPR. “Sanctions do have an impact. They’re very important. But they don’t work quite as well as they used to.

“This rise of undemocratic thinking in America … (has) confined itself to white America, which limits it and, as demographic change continues, may make it difficult to win elections democratically. And so it’s going to try and change the rules to win them undemocratically. … The authoritarian impulse and the desire to overthrow some of the rules that have run liberal democracy up until now is something you can see playing itself out in a lot of places.”

Applebaum is coming to campus as part of the Open Dialogue Visiting Fellows program, which brings together thought leaders from across the political and ideological spectrum to engage with students, faculty, the public and each other while modeling evidence-based, civil debate. The event is co-hosted by the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy, of which Meacham is co-chair. It will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, in the John Seigenthaler Center Lecture Hall. REGISTER HERE.

Applebaum is also a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and the SNF Agora Institute, where she co-directs Arena, a program on disinformation and 21st-century propaganda.

Applebaum launched her journalism career in 1988 as Warsaw correspondent for The Economist. After 15 years of covering the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and Russia, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, she joined The Washington Post in 2002, where she was a columnist and member of the editorial board. She has also worked as the foreign and deputy editor of The Spectator magazine in London, as the political editor of the Evening Standard and as a columnist at Slate, the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph.